The British government recently unveiled plans for a massive crackdown on "excessive drinking," particularly among the middle class. It will includeall of the familiar tactics of public health officials: dire new warnings onwine bottles, public awareness campaigns, scolding from men and women in labcoats.
But the public response has been a bit more strident than what we're used toover here. Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and a conservativejournalist, writes in The Telegraph: "I am told that the drinks industry isin two minds. Some say capitulate and agree to the 'voluntary' code; somesay fight and force (the government) to try to bring forward legislation. Isay fight, fight, fight. Fight against these insulting, ugly and otioselabels."
Sarah Vine, writing in The Times, is even more passionate, decrying a:
"... pernicious new Puritanism that is slowly squeezing the life and soulout of Britain. Ye gods, as my grandmother used to say, almost all themiddle classes have left is their glass of wine in the evening. ... Becauselet's face it, this Government is doing its best to make our lives about asmiserable as any pox-raddled Hogarthian whore's. Utter the word Œmiddleclass' in Whitehall and watch their greedy little pimps' eyes light up withpound signs. Behold the British middle-classes - a docile, law-abiding armyof tax slaves. Hurrah, let's blow it all on some more social workers inNewcastle."
As blessedly entertaining as all this is, some might wonder why the Britsare so exercised about a bunch of warning labels. After all, politicalcorrectness has been worse over there for quite a while. Police have beenknown to arrest school kids for insulting their friends. All of England ispreparing for a smoking ban that will include "smoking police" making raidson establishments violating the law. The streets of Old Blighty arefestooned with hundreds of thousands of closed-circuit television cameras.And, whereas once these cameras were used for anti-terrorism, police in somejurisdictions have actually outfitted them with loudspeakers so they can,like the voice of God, tell pedestrians to pick up their litter andgenerally behave like good "tax slaves." You'd think warning labels on vinowould seem as uncontroversial as adding green vegetables to the prisoncafeteria menu.